Bryson DeChambeau’s previous caddie? He and Kurt Kitayama are main the Arnold Palmer
Tim Tucker stood with the flagstick propped aloft towards his left shoulder, then his proper. About 25 toes away, his boss was lining up one of many largest putts of his life, however Tucker and Michael Greller, Jordan Spieth’s caddie, didn’t appear overly involved and so they whispered away. At one level, Tucker handed one thing to Greller.
Seconds later, he handed him the flagstick. Kurt Kitayama had birdied.
There’s some coolness to the Kitayama proceedings this week, isn’t there? Chief to start out Saturday on the Arnold Palmer Invitational? Sounds good. Double bogey early at Bay Hill to drop out of the lead? OK. The chief to start out Sunday, with a PGA Tour all-star group giving chase? Nice. Granted, Kitayama is often this fashion. One in every of his pursuers, Xander Schauffele, joked with reporters earlier this week concerning the measurement of his buddy’s legs, and these bouquets aren’t given to the extra severe people. “Yeah, Kurt, we name him Quadzilla or the Quadfather,” Schauffele mentioned. “He’s received actually large legs. So I name him Quadz with a ‘Z’ on the finish. He’s an excellent dude. He’s a extremely good participant. He hangs robust and he’s received an excellent head on his shoulders.” When instructed about all of it, Quadzilla laughed.
However you want a rock to tug off one thing like Kitayama is on the verge of. Let’s return to that scene on the high. On the 18th inexperienced, after the putt, Kitayama turned proper to Tucker. Participant and caddie held a fist-bump for a second. They launched.
They went proper into the yardage ebook. It gave off an on-to-the-next-one vibe. On the NBC broadcast, John Wooden had an concept what they had been speaking about.
“After Kitayama made that putt, he came to visit to the facet of the inexperienced, and clearly Tim Tucker congratulated him and mentioned good putt,” mentioned Wooden, himself a longtime caddie. “However I assure you, being as skilled as he’s, he’s getting him prepared for tomorrow proper now, telling him you’re higher than anyone out right here this week and we’re going to go take them aside tomorrow.”
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It’s possible you’ll know a few of the Tucker story already. A looper for just a few gamers over time, he’s perhaps finest identified for being Bryson DeChambeau’s bagman, a stretch that noticed Tucker caddie throughout a 2020 U.S. Open victory. An Arnold Palmer Invitational win two years in the past, too. When DeChambeau took an adventurous, over-the-lake route on Bay Hill’s par-5 sixth throughout the third and fourth rounds that yr, it was Tucker he met on the bag. They’d cut up later that yr, although — the edges will let you know it was peaceable — and Tucker, a former Bandon Dunes caddie, went again to the Oregon resort, opened a shuttle service, and he’s carried now and again.
The Kitayama story, although, is extra winding. For brevity’s sake, we’ll share that the 30-year-old Californian has performed globally, and that on the first of his three worldwide victories, he was paid with a bag of money. So he’s seen some issues. Within the fall of 2021, he joined the PGA Tour full-time, and he’s had a collection of notable also-rans: a tie for second finally yr’s Mexico Open, the place Jon Rahm gained; a second finally yr’s Scottish Open, the place Schauffele gained; a second finally fall’s CJ Cup, the place Rory McIlroy gained.
Good. However perhaps not sufficient.
A few month in the past, although, Tucker picked up the bag — Kitayama’s brother is a caddie at Bandon and linked the 2 — and right here we’re. Throughout the board within the Strokes Gained metrics this week, Kitayama has been strong — twenty seventh in off the tee; tied for third in tee to inexperienced; 14th in strategy the inexperienced; sixteenth in across the inexperienced; eighth in placing; and first general — and after rounds of 67, 68 and 72, the duo leads by one going into Sunday’s closing spherical.
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“I imply, he’s received loads of data,” Kitayama mentioned of Tucker. “Making an attempt to soak in as a lot as I can with out going overload on it. He’s been very useful. We’re attempting new issues out on the course, and if it really works, we keep it up, and if it doesn’t, we type of throw it proper out.
“So it’s been good.”
Is it sufficient? Right here’s the lineup behind him — Viktor Hovland and defending champion Scottie Scheffler are one again, 2020 champ Tyrrell Hatton is 2 again, McIlroy and Harris English are three again.
However, you understand, cool.
“Yeah, I feel you simply type of settle for it,” Kitayama mentioned. “You simply take a look at the leaderboard, the rankings and what they’ve carried out. Folks in all probability cheering for them louder, you understand. So there’s nothing I can do.
“Simply embrace it.”
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